Enter the world of Haussmann's newly built City of Light: a dazzling, panoramic novel of love and survival set during the Siege of Paris in 1870.
A diverse group of memorable characters find themselves in Paris during the build up to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Dreamer Anne is half-Haitian, possessed of incredible gifts, but with a past she tries to bury; Lawrence is desperate to spread his wings, develop his talents as a photographer, and escape the restrictions of his Canadian upbringing; Ellis, an American army surgeon, has lived through the trauma of the American Civil War and will do anything to avoid further violence. We join these characters and others as they live through, and are buffeted by, momentous historical events that will change them forever.
The Franco-Prussian War ends in a devastating defeat for the French after the Siege of Paris, in which countless Parisians die of starvation and cold during a bitter winter. This terrible time is quickly followed by yet more horror: the socialist revolution of the Paris Commune that seizes the government, briefly, until it is brutally crushed by the French Army.
Against this backdrop our characters meet, struggle, grow, fight their demons, lose their hearts, find love. The reader witnesses the ebb and flow of history as the characters confront a changing world around them. And although set in the nineteenth century, the novel explores questions that are uniquely contemporary: issues of gender, sexuality, inequality, and race.
Stef Penney was born and raised in Edinburgh. She is the author of The Tenderness of Wolves, which was a national bestseller and the recipient of the prestigious Costa Book Award. She is also the author of The Invisible Ones and Under a Pole Star. Stef lives in London.
"Electrifying. The final 150 pages are astonishing, to be read breathlessly, compulsively and at speed through your fingers –– and yet it’s all so well crafted, it’s a shame not to take your time. In its balancing of exhilaration and horror, love and terror, despair and resurgence, The Beasts of Paris is a triumph."
– The Guardian
"The Beasts of Paris is an absorbing, rich portrait of a city falling apart. Penney, who won the Costa Book of the Year Award in 2006, draws her main characters, and Paris itself, with great skill and tenderness."
– The Times (London)
“Journeys of self-discovery and survival unfold alongside a heartfelt love story. Penney presents a sweeping look at Paris under siege while showing how innocents, human and animal alike, suffer during wartime. Well-rounded characters and brisk pacing are strong points in this involving tale about a volatile time.”
Praise for Stef Penney:
– The New York Times
“Utterly new and utterly enthralling.”
– New York Times bestselling author Tana French
"An original and readable mixture of mystery and history, with a good dollop of old-fashioned adventure.”
– The Times (London)
"The novel has a large canvas and the story twists and turns. An entertaining and well-written adventure thriller.”
– The Spectator
"A fascinating, suspense-filled adventure, a refreshing contrast to the conventional murder mystery.”
– The Sunday Telegraph (London)
“Penney gives her plot plenty of twists and saves the best for the end, with a truly unforeseen and unpredictable conclusion.”